Are people with a non-western background overrepresented among those who get corona and become seriously ill? Last spring, the first signs of this were, albeit not as strong as in other Western countries. Now during the second wave, according to some, those indications are there again and even more emphatic than before. Although they are not yet unambiguous and a lot of research is still needed to get things clear.
What are those clues?
Last weekend, the head of the IC-department of the Amsterdam VUMC told the radio program Argos that he has the impression that most of the coronapatics on the ICs have a migration background. Arman Girbes said that he talked about it with a number of other hospitals in the four major cities and that his perception is shared there.
Today, however, Ernst Kuipers of the Erasmuc MC stressed that this does not apply to his hospital. The other hospitals inside and outside the Randstad with whom the CCEit had contact today do not recognize the image, find it too early for conclusions or do not consider the question relevant. “An IC patient is an IC patient”, responds the Diakonessenhuis in Utrecht. The Amphia Hospital in Breda says: “Because of privacy, we cannot answer these questions. A migration background is also not recorded.”
Are there any more indications that ethnicity plays a role?
A similar observation came today from RTL, which had figured out that in 39 socially weaker districts in the big cities more people than average are tested positive. Neighbourhoods such as Nieuw-West and Zuidoost in Amsterdam live relatively low educated and poorer people, including minorities.
However, no definitive conclusions are yet to be drawn from this, again due to the fact that the background of sick people in the Netherlands is not recorded. Joke Padmos of the GGD Amsterdam Amstelland: “The most important factor for the infections here, also in districts such as Nieuw-West and Zuidoost, are young and young adults, up to 30 years old. Many students also live in those districts. It is said that there are infections caused by weddings and celebrations, but we do not see that. We just see that many parties have been canceled. Mosques are not full either.”
Whats that like in other countries?
In a country like the US, the background of people affected by the virus is recorded. The outcomes are striking. Data from the CDC (the American RIVM) show, among other things, that black Americans and some other minorities are significantly more likely to get covid than their white compatriots.
The CDC also mentions the reasons for this and are known among epidemiologists as Professor Frits Rosendaal of Leiden University. “Black Americans in large cities like Chicago often live with more people in relatively small homes because of their socio-economic status. That is, of course, a risk factor.”
“ In addition,” says Rosendaal, “they have jobs outside the neighborhoods where they live, so they often have to travel in full public transport. As a result, they come into contact with others more than average. And once they get sick, they are also at extra risk, because the state of health in these areas is worse. Several of these factors could also play a role in less prosperous Dutch neighbourhoods. With that difference, access to healthcare is significantly better than in America.”
Are there no Dutch figures at all?
It is; the CBS calculated last May that in the first six weeks of the outbreak, 47 percent more people died than usual with a non-Western migration background, for example from Turkey and Morocco. Among people with a Dutch background, that percentage was 38 percent. A smaller difference than in other Western countries.
In people with a Western migration background, such as Eastern Europeans, the “overmortality” was 49 percent. “They are often active in, for example, slaughterhouses,” explains epidemiologist Rosendaal. “There you work on top of each other and the transport to it was often in full vans.”
However, the CBS has not (yet) carried out research into the background of the deceased in the current second wave. Studies are underway on, among other things, the impact of the crisis on different populations.
One of these researchers is Mariëlle Jambroes of the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC).
“ From international literature, I know that migrants are relatively more infected, but I do not know exactly what this is about in the Netherlands,” she says. “What is different here than in other countries is that our carnival and spring holidays have been an important source of the epidemic. These are not the groups that many migrants are in. It may be that this is the explanation that in the firstwave had quite few infections in these groups.”